T r a c k e r z I n t r o

yet another players' guide! | what is | Standards | History | Midi or Tracker | Types of Music | Linux |

What's a Tracker anyway? . . .

It's a program that you can lay out and play sounds with. It's basis is a conceptual matrix ...

A B C D E F G H I 1 - - - - - - - - - 2 - - - - E2 - - - 3 - - - - - - - - - etc.

Different sounds are represented by A,B,C etc. and time flowing by is represented by 1,2,3 on (or better to think of them as beats or divisions of a beat). When the player starts it plays all the sounds in row 1 simultaneously then the ones in row 2, until the end. Different sounds can be loaded into A, B, H, or whatever so that if the sound at E2 was a kick drum, there would be the sound of a kick drum whenever the player went past the point E2. As well as that there are usually a whole list of parameters for each box. Say that E2 has been changed to a synth sound. You could choose different notes of the synth to play in the E column and frequently there are parameters of the sound itself that can be changed from row to row... and while the synth is playing in column E there could be any number of other instruments playing in the other columns.

Standards? . . .

There aren't any but there are some standard file types which mean that going cross-platform isn't a problem. An individual song is mostly called a module and some module formats are MOD, XM, and IT. This means that if you're starting out on Linux with a Linux tracker (more below) you'll still be able to play a lot of existing modules and be able to import a whole bunch of ready-made instruments (XI).

History . . .

Trackers started out as very basic music making/playing software on very basic machines. The first I saw was screamtracker and it kind of ran on an 8088 although it preferred a 286. The very first tracker software was for an Amiga. The advantage of early trackers was that you could use these basic machines to make quite interesting music. The disadvantage was that input was (and still can be) a laborious process of entering each instrument using the computer keyboard... but, as with anything else, practice builds speed. Today's trackers are a lot more sophisticated with the ability to record and alter samples and sometimes the support of midi instrument input.

Midi or Tracker? . . .

Midi is a protocol for moving and interpreting musical instrument data. You need instruments and/or software that "speak" that protocol. Some trackers speak it and some don't ... heh, so the pedant's answer is that there isn't an "or" - they are different things and you can have both together. A practical answer is that with a tracker you can get started making music with just your computer and some free software and add specialized (and usually expensive) music equipment later.

Types of Music . . .

You can do most things with trackers. Complicated, many voiced harmonies might take a lot of patience. One natural area for trackers is groove type music where a repeating theme is being modified - anything trancey or dancey (sorry!) ... you could use a tracker as a super flexible (and super good value) drum machine as well (if you already have the computer that is).

Trackers for Linux . . .

There are several now (Apr 2000). Documentation can be a bit sparse! If you've used trackers before you won't have a problem. If you haven't you might need to look through some generic instructions for keyboard entry in the tracker window. Usually the other windows are fairly intuitive. BEAST is a GTK+/GNOME based tracker in early development. Described as being pre-Alpha, the screenshot looks promising. Kegtracker - I don't know much about this one. It needs gtk+>1.1 plus devel libs for a compile. ITAL is a port of Impulse tracker. Needs Qt, KDE, and mikmod. Soundtracker - nice interface, works well, ripping samples from CD is easy once you find the right mixer combo for your soundcard. This is probably the most used tracker on Linux at the moment. Octal - An API is recently out and some basic code. Some features will be buzz-like. Voodoo Tracker - Started with Michael Krause's Soundtracker code and right now looks like a subset of Soundtracker. What's there works fine. It looks like the start of a project and I'm not sure if it's being worked on now. Xsoundtrack 0.0.6 is something I just fell over in a hitsquad newsletter and I don't know much about it. timidity++ isn't a tracker but as of 2.9.2 it does play mod files and there is talk of a mod2midi app. There is at least one other I couldn't find. ....??

What Next?? . . .

Get some modules in and listen to them... here is good Get some XI's (instruments) and play with them, then make some of your own... a place in Russia Note: Just ftp-ing to this place is better. Make some mods. Release your brilliance to the world!

Resources . . .

There are lots but united-trackers is about the best starting point and there's heaps of stuff there.

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